How the Internet of Things is being used to detect and prevent events that cause pipeline breaks

How the Internet of Things is being used to detect and prevent events that cause pipeline breaks


A transient pressure in a pipeline is a generic term for a wave phenomenon that accompanies a rapid change of the velocity of the fluid in the pipeline. A “waterhammer” occurs when a sudden transient pressure occurs and will have serious consequences if not properly addressed and mitigated. The magnitude of these surges is independent of the operating pressure, and can be many times normal operating pressure. The duration of a transient pressure will vary from several minutes in relatively long pipe segments, to several hundredths of a second in the case of waterhammer events.

Pipelines are designed to withstand transient pressures among the various loads that will be placed on them during operation: external loads such as soil, traffic, and the weight of the pipe itself; and internal pressure loads. The hydraulic design of the pipeline will identify the normal operating pressures, and will estimate the transient pressures or surge pressures that will accompany any change in the rate of flow in the pipeline such as the start of a pump or the closing of a valve. The operator strives to make sure the loads imposed on a pipe do not exceed the design loads, but a problem arises when unforeseen operational events cause transient pressures exceeding the designer’s estimate. 

A frequent refrain from pipeline operators who have experienced failures or ruptures is that transient pressures are the root cause of the problem. Without measuring and monitoring these events, an owner has no way to mitigate the problems before a failure occurs. We have all heard loud, banging waterhammer in household water or steam pipes; in buried pipelines there is normally no one to there to hear the event which may have a duration of only a few thousandths of a second.


The transient pressure monitoring system involves multiple components to make the system work. First, to acquire the data from the system we required multiple sensors to be placed within the pipeline system. The TP-1, Transient Pressure Monitoring System is specifically designed to give pipeline operators detailed information about transient pressures within a pipeline. Like conventional data loggers the TP-1 can continuously collect pressure measurements at any pre-programmed interval. What sets the TP-1 apart is its ability to instantly begin recording pressure data at up to 100 times per second should an anomaly occur. This patented second level of high-speed data collection allows operators to detect any spikes that would have otherwise gone undetected or insufficiently recorded given the standard rate of data collection. Once the pressure stabilizes the TP-1 returns to its normal monitoring mode.

The second challenge was to facilitate communication to the pumping stations. To facilitate this communication we placed an IoT gateway designed specifically for the PipeAngel (A Lexcom Systems Group originated SW) system from v2Com. The onsite data collector was responsible for collecting the data from the sensor and uploading it to the PipeAngel (A Lexcom Systems Group originated SW) system via the cellular network. The system was placed on an uninterrupted power supply to ensure that communication remained in the event of a power outage.

Finally, once the data was available in the Pipeangel ((A Lexcom Systems Group originated SW) system we were able to use it for analytics.  integration offers a flexible, low cost solution for displaying this information. Data was displayed on a monthly basis where the operator is able to visualize the transients over a period of time. Transient events were grouped into event ID's where each transient event could be quickly visualized and viewed by the operator and a root cause could be established for each event.


The final result of the system was that the operator was able to eliminate the manual collection of data from the TP-1 sensor installed in the pumping station. The system enhanced their visibility into the pressure of the pipeline notifying them of events that came close to the operating threshold of the pipeline. This allowed the operator to quickly respond to these events and track the root cause resulting in operational improvements to help mitigate the risk of waterhammer events.